Tofino Revises Wastewater Treatment Strategy – Tofino-Ucluelet Westerly News


Tofino is taking another kick in the box to secure funding for a sewage treatment plant and finally meet its federal mandate to stop pumping raw sewage into the ocean, although its original deadline of January 1, 2021 to do so has long since faded in the rearview mirror.

At its regular meeting on February 22, the city’s council authorized its staff to engage with the provincial and federal governments to secure financial support for a $77.55 million wastewater treatment facility and allocated up to $920,000 for detailed design work and pre-construction planning activities.

The Council also gave staff the go-ahead to begin hiring a sewage treatment plant project team.

The district seemed poised to move forward with a $55 million wastewater treatment plan in 2020 and

seemed to have enough money to set it up after receiving $40 million in grants from the provincial and federal governments. This plan, however, was sent back to the drawing board when the $55 million cost estimate turned out to be a far cry from reality and the only two bids received to build the project came in at around $84 million. dollars.

The district then announced its intention to work with the two bidding companies to see if a less expensive project could be developed, while still meeting the performance requirements, and this collaboration led to a new integrated approach to fixed film activated sludge.

At the February 22 regular meeting, Tofino’s director of infrastructure and public works, Fraser Work, said the new cost estimate was $77.55 million and that design work was needed in a short delay.

“Having to redesign the configuration site equipment and site layout to accommodate the new IFAST technology, we need continued funding to support this,” he said.

The added work of hiring a dedicated professional team is also an important part of the process.

“We want, of course, to make sure that we staff the project team so that we have dedicated professionals working on this project on a daily basis, which is what the project will require, even just at the personnel level, to ensure that we can coordinate construction activities within our community in a way that reduces impact and issues with the public,” he said. “We want to maintain a high quality design and we are working under time constraints in order to start construction as soon as possible and we have to be very careful and careful that we have a thoughtful and well-configured design so that it proves to have the lowest possible operating costs and the highest possible performance to meet all our requirements in a way that can accompany us throughout the life of the installation.

He added that the provincial and federal governments are expected to approve the new funding approval plan and he expects to receive their response in May with hopes of starting construction of the facility in June and an estimated completion date of September 2024.

“It’s a bit of a disappointing timeline when you think about how much time a lot of people are putting into it and two more years into construction, which is obviously a hill to climb,” he said.

Com. Tom Stere asked what would happen if funding was not approved.

“Is there a plan B at this point, or are we just going to move forward with plan A and hope for the best?” He asked.

General manager Bob MacPherson said Tofino is in ongoing talks with the province and the federal government about the project and said he’s confident the gap between the $77.55 million price tag and the $16 million of taxpayer funding that the district has committed to dedicate to the project would be met.

“Since we had a shock with the stickers in the summer of 2020, we have spoken frequently with our backers,” he said. “We were in a bit of a chicken and an egg (situation) for quite a while here where we didn’t know what we were asking for and we didn’t know how much we were asking for.”

He added that staff met with the province recently and the feedback was positive.

“This is an incredibly important project for our town of 2,500 people and the provincial government appreciates that and there is support for more dollars for this project so we are optimistic that there are more money there,” he said.

“Our message to the province time and time again is that the $16 million we have committed to borrow represents a significant challenge for us. We really can’t go beyond that responsibly without preventing future generations from making decisions about what infrastructure this community will need.

Com. Duncan McMaster asked if Parks Canada and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, who are both expected to use Tofino’s proposed facility to treat their wastewater, have been made aware of the new costs.

“If they balked and said they wouldn’t participate, should we do a redesign?” He asked.

MacPherson said TFN and Parks Canada are aware the district has tried to cut costs and noted that higher costs should be covered by grants.

“Things may not have really changed, provided we are able to firmly maintain our $16 million number as a local number,” he said. “I think it’s highly unlikely that TFN or Parks Canada won’t be interested, as they both recognize that they have to deal with sewage and the alternative is to go it alone.” So it’s a few million dollars compared to what we’re learning is a lot of millions of dollars.

Com. Cathy Thicke asked what assurances Tofino had that Parks Canada and TFN would contribute.

“I still don’t see much coming from these two partners,” she said.

“We put ourselves in the game, we made this loan settlement… Will there be a memorandum of understanding with ourselves and the other partners who could benefit from this treatment plant?

MacPherson responded that a service agreement would be required.

“We told these two entities to be ready while we did more work to see if we could reduce the overall cost,” he said. “We owe them updates, and then we need to start more serious conversations about what cost sharing looks like. I believe they are ready and waiting for these conversations.

Com. Britt Chalmers supports the staff recommendations.

“For this report to come back so comprehensive and to be able to see how much work has gone into it and the level of understanding, it gave me a lot of confidence in such massive work,” she said. “It’s just very impressive… This huge project is in good hands and I appreciate the work. There is still so much to do and so many unknowns, but I really enjoyed this report.

Mayor Dan Law agreed.

“This is a ridiculously large, complicated, risky and expensive undertaking for a municipality of 2,500 people. We have been incredibly fortunate to have Mr. Work and Mr. MacPherson and a board that has dedicated an enormous amount of time to this,” he said.

“The numbers and scope of this project are simply staggering to me.”

He added, however, that the project could be dead in the water without more provincial and federal support, as there is no appetite to contribute more taxpayer money.

“I commit to sticking to $16 million. That’s going to be the cap for local ratepayers in my mind and if that’s going to become a political issue, I think myself and the council can certainly take care of that,” he said.


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